One of the biggest obstacles I see to achieving this goal is the clamp down on access to information. (Enter beginning of heated debate here!) We've all been there, either as a teacher or a visitor to a school, experiencing the frustrations that an internet filter brings to schools. A filter has been added, designed to protect our students' innocent young minds from the big bad berth of "disgustingness" that floats around in the world wide web, but in doing so, valuable educational sites have also been blocked.
Image from: http://bit.ly/cl1Moj
The examples of this frustration that I've personally experienced in my short 5-year career as a teacher are abundant:
The scenarios are endless, and increasingly frustrating.
A moment of clarification before I continue on my rant: I am NOT advocating for full and open access to every website within schools, nor am I suggesting that the age of the students need be ignored when establishing the level of filter. I am simply questioning why we continue to put up roadblocks to valuable information, and shy away from these teachable moments regarding appropriate use of technology.
The reality is that we're fooling ourselves if we believe that we're truly protecting students by putting in place more rules. After all, weren't rules made to be broken? Junior high and high school students simply see internet filters as a challenge. As new filters are put in place, so are new proxy breakers available on the web, and accessing Facebook or YouTube is simply an extra click away. The problem is, many teachers (young and 'experienced') are not as knowledgeable when it comes to Internet savyness, and hence, don't want to deal with issues that may arise with increased access to sites. I don't blame them, but I think we need to reevaluate why we're limiting students because of our own apprehensions.
I can hear you now, "So what do you suggest we do, then?" My answer is simply this: as teachers of 21st century learners/digital natives/the Y generation we have a responsibility to model and teach students appropriate use of technology, rather than simply blocking it.
There are many valuable educational uses of traditionally blocked sites such as YouTube and Facebook. (shocking!) If worried about content, there are some ways around that on YouTube: http://youtube.com/edu identifies the videos that are tagged as educational, and further subdivided by subject area. Safe Share TV (http://www.safeshare.tv/) is another site that helps filter out inappropriate content on videos.
Mostly, we need to respect that students (especially those in high school), are logical human beings, who respond best to rules that make sense, instead of just being there for the sake of rules. In my personal experience, prior to opening access to YouTube for my Grade 10 classes, we had a frank discussion about what the rationale behind me doing so was [for the record, it was for a media project in Social Studies]. This valuable discussion allowed me to explain that obviously, certain behaviours were not acceptable on YouTube at school, and those behaviours would not be tolerated. This teaching moment led to nearly zero issues as the project progressed --the novelty wore off in about 2 weeks, and I rarely found a student on YouTube unless they were a.) done their work and filling 2 minutes of free time watching funny kitten videos or b.) using it for a school project.
Still not convinced? Check out this magazine article: "Fifth Period is Facebook"
There are numerous other examples of great things that happen when the adults take a deep breath and encourage more access to websites. Take some time to conduct your own internet search on the use of sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook in the classroom.
That is, provided that Google isn't blocked at your school. :-)
As always, comments are welcome!
Previous Comments (from old blog site):